February 2011

New planning laws focus on coastal protection

The topic of coastal impacts in the assessment of development projects has attracted considerable public interest in recent times.

It is no surprise that the NSW Department of Planning has introduced legislative amendments to ensure greater consideration to coastal impacts is given in the assessment process.

Those amendments are contained in the Coastal Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2010.

The following amendments began on 1 January 2011:

  • Section 79C of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 has been amended so that, in determining a development application, a consent authority is now required to take into consideration any coastal zone management plan (within the meaning of the Coastal Protection Act 1979).

  • For the purposes of Part 5 of the Act, any impact on coastal processes and coastal hazards, including those under projected climate change conditions, are required to be taken into account when consideration is being given to the likely impact of an activity on the environment.

  • Amendments to the State Environment Planning Policy (Infrastructure) Act 2007 (SEPP Infrastructure) relating to coastal protection works by public authorities and private land owners have been made in order to:

    • Require consideration of relevant coastal zone management plans.

    • Allow coastal protection works by private land owners with consent.

    • Identify the New South Wales Coastal Panel as the consent authority when no coastal zone management plan applies to the land.

    • Specify matters for consideration by the consent authority when assessing coastal protection works.

Clause 129A of SEPP Infrastructure provides that development for the purposes of a sea wall or beach nourishment may be carried out by any person with consent on the open coast or entrance to a coastal lake.

If a coastal zone management plan does not apply to land on which such development is to be carried out, the Coastal Panel may determine a development application for development to which this clause applies. If a coastal zone management plan applies to the land, the existing consent authority provisions apply.

Who is on the coastal panel?

The coastal panel comprises a group of experts nominated by local councils and State Government departments who will provide advice to the Minister and councils on coastal issues.

As noted, the panel will act as a consent authority for development application works where council does not have a coastal zone management plan in place.

The recent amendments enshrine into the relevant legislation a requirement that consent authorities consider, in determining development applications, the contents of coastal zone management plans that make provision for the protection and preservation of beach environments.

We will provide further reports if and when the Land and Environment Court hands down decisions that give particular consideration to the amendments referred to in this article.

Author: Dennis Loether